What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism updated on  September 5, 2023 4 min read

Plagiarism is defined as the act of passing off someone else's work or ideas as your own original work or ideas. Plagiarism occurs when the original source is not properly credited, whether this is intentional or unintentional.

According to Dictionary.com plagiarism is defined as:

  1. An act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author
  2. A piece of writing or other work reflecting such unauthorized use or imitation

What is considered to be plagiarism?

The quick answer: any copied or paraphrased text without a proper citation.

The long answer: plagiarism comes in many different forms, and can be either purposeful or accidental. It's often seen in academic writing but can occur in any form of writing.

Plagiarism transpires when:

  • A source is not cited properly
  • A source is not cited at all
  • A quote is not placed inside of quotation marks
  • Words are rearranged/changed but sentence structure remains the same
  • A specific idea is not cited properly or at all

Here is a list of actions that do not constitute plagiarism:

  • Using someone else's work and giving credit/proper citations
  • Paraphrasing someone else's work and giving credit
  • Summarizing someone else's work and giving credit
  • Referencing someone else's ideas and giving credit
  • Putting quotes into quotation marks and giving credit
  • Using common knowledge or vernacular (ex: "George Washington was the first president of the United States" or "two wrongs make a right")

Why is plagiarism bad?

Well, how would you like it if someone else stole your work and got all the credit for it?

Down to its core, plagiarism is theft. Someone who plagiarizes is stealing work from someone else, and subsequently getting all of the credits and benefits from having others believe that it's theirs.

Not only does this negatively affect the original author, but it hurts the plagiarizer. If they're copying someone else's writing and ideas, they're not learning how to properly form their own.

Not to mention, plagiarism comes with some serious consequences like expulsion, probation, and, in some cases, jail time and/or a felony charge.

The audience can also be affected. If something plagiarized is used out of context or paraphrased in a way that doesn't make sense, readers are going to come away with incorrect information.

Plagiarism is bad for everyone involved. There are no upsides to plagiarizing someone else's work.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

There's good news, and that is that it's actually super easy to avoid plagiarism, academic dishonesty, and literary theft.

The biggest way to avoid plagiarism is to cite all your sources properly according to the rules of whatever citation style you're using.

Here's a quick list of things you can do to prevent plagiarism:

  • Cite every source you use, whether you're using direct quotes, a paraphrased version of their text, an idea, or writing a summary
Need to Cite sources used by you?
QuillBot's Citation Generator will enable you in quickly creating citations in APA, MLA, Chicago, and other styles.

  • Use quotation marks for direct quotes
  • Keep track of your sources as you research/write so you don't forget any of them
  • Use a plagiarism checker to double check your sources are cited

Check plagiarism in your text now
QuillBot's detects plagiarism in your text and makes sure that it is plagiarism-free.

Types of Plagiarism

There are 4 main types of plagiarism, and they're all equally punishable and in direct opposition to academic integrity commitments. However, it's good to know the differences so you can keep an eye out for them during your own drafting process.

  1. Direct plagiarism. Copying text word-for-word, like a direct quote, without using quotation marks or properly citing the source.
  2. Mosaic/Patchwork plagiarism. Borrowing phrases from a cited source without quotation marks, and/or changing some of the words in a sentence without acknowledging the original source.
  3. Self-plagiarism. Using one's own previous work in a new work/essay without getting permission from the previous professor or instructor (occurs most often in academic writing, categorized under academic plagiarism)
  4. Accidental plagiarism. Misquoting the source text, citing the wrong source, and unintentionally paraphrasing a source text are all examples of accidental plagiarism and are taken just as seriously as any other form of plagiarism

Detecting Plagiarism

Even if it's not your intention to plagiarize, accidents do happen (that's why there's an entire category called "accidental plagiarism"). While this can seem both daunting and unfair, you'll have nothing to worry about if you take this one major precaution after your drafting process.

Use a plagiarism checker.

That's it. An online plagiarism checker will scan your draft and flag any duplicate content that it finds.

QuillBot's plagiarism checker checks your work against trillions of websites, thousands of academic journals, and over 1 million internal documents, not to mention it can scan text in over 100 languages.

If any duplicate content is found, the plagiarism checker will flag it so you know that it needs a source. The last thing you want to do is unintentionally take credit for someone else's work, right?

Because the tool is able to identify plagiarism, this is a really easy, simple step you can take to ensure your academic integrity remains intact.

What are the consequences of plagiarism?

The consequences of plagiarism can vary depending on the situation. However, plagiarism can result in failing a class, being expelled from school, or even losing a job.

What if I accidentally plagiarize?

If you accidentally plagiarize, the most important thing to do is to acknowledge your mistake and take steps to correct it. This may involve citing the source of the work that you used or rewriting the plagiarized material in your own words.


Paige Pfeifer

Paige teaches QuillBot writers about grammar rules and writing conventions. She has a BA in English, which she received by reading and writing a lot of fiction. That is all she knows how to do.

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.